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'Naive leftists' or rational peace seekers? Taiwan scholars release anti-war statement

'US provocation causes China threat to Taiwan,' group says

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Scholars Kuo Li-hsin, Lu Chien-yi, Daiwei Fu and Feng Chien-san hold paper boards with anti-war slogans.

Scholars Kuo Li-hsin, Lu Chien-yi, Daiwei Fu and Feng Chien-san hold paper boards with anti-war slogans. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A group of Taiwanese anti-war scholars have called for Taiwan to maintain “equidistant relationships” between China and the U.S. while issuing a list of four demands including redirecting Taiwan’s military budget to climate change mitigation and social welfare.

The Taiwan Anti-war Statement Working Group held a press conference on Monday (March 20) to present a list of 37 Taiwanese scholars' demands calling for “peace, anti-armament, independence, and climate action,” per CNA. The press conference was chaired by retired National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University Professor Daiwei Fu (傅大為), who said that China’s constant threats to Taiwan mostly originate from U.S. provocations.

The group called for an end to the Ukraine war, an end to U.S. militarism and economic sanctions, prevention of war between China and the U.S., and directing spending to social welfare and climate mitigation instead of military buildup.

Academia Sinica researcher Lu Chien-yi (盧倩儀) said that U.S. militarism has led to the country's massive social welfare deficiencies, crumbling infrastructure, and decline in life expectancy. “Taiwanese politicians continue to imitate the U.S. in reducing social welfare and climate budgets, why are we still foolishly singing their praises?” Lu asked.

Lu said that the U.S. insistence on maintaining global hegemony has sacrificed many countries, and warned that Taiwan may be next. She said that China was not the only threat Taiwan faced and that military threats should be considered rationally.

Lu also questioned the U.S. commitment to Taiwan, pointing out that the life expectancy of an average U.S. citizen is less than China’s due to the prioritization of military spending gutting social welfare programs, per Watchout. “The United States doesn't even care about the lives of Americans, will it really care about Taiwanese people?" she asked.

Retired NCCU College of Communications Professor Kuo Li-hsin (郭力昕) said he hoped the call would initiate a more thoughtful discussion in Taiwanese society around military threats. "In a society that prides itself on democracy and freedom of speech, we hope there can be more deep thought and dialogue," he said.

The group’s statement was met with harsh criticism from Assistant Professor at Soochow University’s Department of Political Science Fang-Yu Chen (陳方隅), who described them as "naive leftists," per Watchout. Chen (who recently co-authored a study probing the declining number of people identifying as “Taiwanese” said that the group’s “anti-American imperialism” standpoint meant their views would highly overlap with those supporters of China-Taiwan unification, even if the group itself did not support this.

Chen said he agrees with the idea of “anti-war,” but said that the initiative to achieve this should be taken by China. He said that U.S. policy is to maintain the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, which is in line with Taiwan’s aim of “maintaining independence and self-reliance.”

Jo-shui Chen (陳弱水), former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at National Taiwan University and Tang and Song Dynasty scholar, said that talking about “anti-war” is the same as talking about surrender. Chen said that China’s military spending is more than 11 times that of Taiwan’s, and “if Taiwan leaves the United States and its democratic allies in order to pursue ‘equivalence,’ it will be in a desperate situation.”

Fu said that a version of the statement had been leaked on the internet before it was announced officially, and that it was already blacklisted before there was a chance for a fair discussion. The critics “have already stolen a lot of ground," he said.

The group’s controversial “anti-war” statement comes as calls to demilitarize the island territories of Matsu and Kinmen grow, a move Chen told Taiwan News would change little. “In my opinion, Kinmen and Matsu have already demilitarized because we have very few military personnel there,” he said.

Chen said that it makes no difference if Taiwan has 100 troops stationed on Matsu or none, saying “we cannot defend for even one day,” and that demilitarizing would be purely symbolic. “The question is whether we want to send this signal, because it is a very big signal," he said.